Do We Have Enough Glutamine?
Posted on October 10 2018
Just like carbohydrates and fats, protein is an essential macronutrient (which means it is required in bulk). But the difference is unlike carbohydrates and fats, our body doesn’t store extra protein, which is why we must pay more heed towards protein-supplementation.
As we know, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and we get most of the amino acids from the diet we take. Yet, it is very hard to meet the individual amino acid need.
There are 20 amino acids and we need all of them as every amino acid has a crucial role to play for the proper functioning of the body. For instance, while arginine is required for energy production, leucine promotes energy metabolism, beta-alanine increases muscle endurance and so on.
The dairy and the meat supply all the 9 essential amino acids to us.
What about the non-essential?
What we have known till now is, non-essential amino acids are synthesized in the human body, so they need not be taken through the diet. But how far is this statement true?
Is non-essential also essential?
A simple and straight answer to this is Yes. But we need more explanation to understand this. A plethora of options of protein supplements constantly added to the market often leaves us with a doubt, is there a need to supplement with non-essential amino acid solely?
First and foremost, the term ‘non-essential amino acid’ infers need not be taken through diet as they already exist in the body. But we are often misled to think they are unimportant and tend to disregard them.
Glutamine is one such amino acid, whose value has not been well-considered.
Primary store of Glutamine is our muscle
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body, which accounts for 60% of the skeletal muscle amino acid pool. As said earlier, every amino acid, be it essential or non-essential is foremost important. Though our body synthesizes glutamine, we need to ensure that we have optimum levels of it.
Inconspicuous need for L-glutamine
As glutamine constitutes the highest portion of the muscle amino pool, it is required in particularly large amounts to repair the damage caused to the muscle and also to rebuild them. What happens is due to increased usage of muscles in our daily activity, they soon get damaged. Muscle growth gets hindered if muscle protein synthesis does not exceed the muscle protein breakdown.
A specific intake of glutamine can undo this damage.
1. Sometimes due to prolonged exercise, serious illness, surgery, trauma, glutamine levels in blood depletes. Such times, our body may not be able to produce enough of it and tries to release more of this amino acid by breaking the protein store. This shortfall of Glutamine could promote wasting of muscle tissue. Glutamine supplement can help us meet this imbalance.
2. Athletes/gym goers who practice strenuous training have low levels of glutamine and high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. In such cases, increased intake of glutamine brings down the cortisol-induced breakdown of muscle protein.
3. Glutamine boosts the production of natural growth hormone. Studies have revealed that people supplemented with glutamine have shown a four-fold increase in growth hormone.
4. Glutamine maintains the structural integrity of the intestinal lining. Increased gut permeability promotes detoxification.
5. Glutamine stabilizes the blood sugar level by serving as an emergency source of energy when the blood levels of glucose fall too low, thereby minimize the sugar cravings.
6. Glutamine helps to replenish the glycogen levels by increasing the activity of an enzyme that creates glycogen in the muscle and liver cells.
7. Our immune cells cannot create glutamine themselves. Without sufficient glutamine, the immune system will break down.
8. Since glutamine is a precursor of DNA & RNA, its depletion directly affects the cell division process.
9. Glutamine prepares the important compounds like L-glutamate and the antioxidant glutathione.
10. Glutamine can reduce the damage caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.